Drug abuse, a problem the United States has faced for decades, has taken a sharply more lethal turn with the rise of opioids—both legal pain-killers, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and illegal ones like heroin. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
More than 64,000 Americans were killed by drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That is worse than the death toll at the peak of the HIV epidemic in 1995 and more than the number of US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam War. At least two-thirds of those 2016 drug deaths were caused by opioids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that Connecticut is among the top ten states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths.
In this National Issues Forum community conversation we will discuss the opioid crisis and address the double standard of the War on Drugs, where victims were criminalized and imprisoned instead of getting the treatment they needed. Together, we will identify possible actions that can be take and explore potential solutions.
Richard Frieder of Community Capacity Builders/Hartford Listens was Community Engagement Director at Hartford Public Library from 2001-2016. He is a Senior Associate with Everyday Democracy and is a Fellow at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute in the Humility and Conviction in Public Life project.